The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

When change agents succeed

One of the mysteries leaders sometimes find themselves confronted with, is when their instructions are being followed.

It is nothing new, that change meets resistance. And yet, leaders who focused on their authority continue to find themselves baffled when it doesn’t happen.

Authority is a necessary condition for any change to be decided as well as to initiate a change process.

To make it happen, however, it is informal authority that will support the process.

It is an authority people have earned in an organization. One that is independent of seniority or official position. One they established by becoming a central influence in their network and by being trusted. These people benefit from their informal connections to access information, knowledge, opportunities, and personal support. It’s a central position that gives them the ability to mobilize others.

Nevertheless, the change they can drive will be influenced by the type of their network.

Some networks are cohesive, that is well interconnected. The fluidity of the flow of information through the network maximizes understanding. It eases the coordination of groups. In contrast to them, bridging networks will connect people and groups who otherwise are not connected. They give access to novel information and knowledge and allow for a more focused way of sharing information.

Change initiatives differ in impact. Some are there to push a deep change that impacts the business model and thus organizational values. It’s a divergent change and one that may promptly gather a lot of resistance in a cohesive network. Nondivergent change is a type of change that builds on the existing and avoids disrupting norms and practices. Whenever it finds support in a cohesive network it will easily spread due to the nature of the network.

When change agents seek to support divergent change, they will find it easier to do so if they have a bridging network. That’s because such a network makes it easier to adapt one’s message to different audiences and their needs.

Making change happen isn’t straightforward. Succeeding depends on the situation as much as on the choices.


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